AT&T’s “Transparency” Report: Polite Requests Versus Demands

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 1.40.24 PMI want to make two more points about AT&T’s “Transparency” Report which, as I mentioned earlier, shows how deceitful “transparency” reports can be.

First, compare the number of subpoenas AT&T shows, total, compared to the rough numbers provided for requests to AT&T under Hemisphere for the prior year.

In 2012, 3 cities — Atlanta, Houston, and  Los Angeles — submitted a total of 2,770 requests to Hemisphere. In 2012 to 2013 (see the following slide), 7 HIDTAs plus two parts of the Southwest Border HIDTA submitted 838 requests to Hemisphere. While I suspect other HIDTAs also have access to Hemisphere, those numbers are still just a tiny fraction of the total subpoenas AT&T got the following year — using the larger number, just slightly more than 1% of the 223,659 criminal subpoenas AT&T received in 2013.

Even assuming the number is 3 times that across all DEA requests, that seems like a miniscule number, probably even a miniscule number of the requests submitted in drug investigations.

We are to believe, then, that AT&T keeps up this database just to feed as what might be less than 4% of its total requests?

Which is one reason I suspect Hemisphere is also serving other purposes.

And that, of course actually assumes (I’m in a generous mood) that AT&T receives a subpoena for all its Hemisphere requests, in spite of references in the Hemisphere presentation to emails and despite the past history of AT&T (or another telecom) providing phone records in response to requests on Post-It notes.

Which makes me really wonder, given another little detail in AT&T’s “Transparency” Report, whether AT&T responds to as data requests, rather than formal demands.

Here are the categories for the data requests it gets:

  • National Security Demands
  • Total U.S. Criminal & Civil Litigation Demands
  • Location Demands
  • Emergency Requests
  • International Demands [my emphasis]

Remarkably, AT&T has just 22 International Demands, counting both law enforcement and URL blocking. Verizon, by contrast, got 2,396 law enforcement demands and 1,663 block requests, though some of that may reflect Vodapone exposure and it also implies there were other requests that it funneled through MLAT processing.

I raise this because, in his paper on the dragnet, David Kris repeatedly suggested the NSA gets some bulk metadata via voluntary production of foreign data.

Alternative methods of collection would include non-bulk FISA orders, or what prior NSA Directors in the past have referred to as “vacuum cleaner” surveillance outside the ambit of FISA, under Executive Order 12333 and its subordinate procedures, such as DOD 5240-1.R, and perhaps voluntary production if not otherwise prohibited by law. See NSA End-to-End Review at 15; August 2013 FISC Order at 10 n.10 (“The Court understands that NSA receives certain call detail records pursuant to other authority, in addition to the call detail records produced in response to this Court’s Orders.”); cf. 18 U.S.C. § 2511(2)(f) otherwise applicable Federal law involving a foreign electronic communications system, utilizing a means other than electronic surveillance as defined in section 101 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978”).(“Nothing contained in this chapter or chapter 121 or 206 of this title, or section 705 of the Communications Act of 1934, shall be deemed to affect the acquisition by the United States Government of foreign intelligence information from international or foreign communications, or foreign intelligence activities conducted in accordance with otherwise applicable Federal law involving a foreign electronic communications system, utilizing a means other than electronic surveillance as defined in section 101 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978”).

If AT&T is voluntarily providing data in response to requests, without insisting on getting a demand, it might explain some of the numbers (not to mention its far greater skew towards subpoenas rather than warrants, as compared to Verizon — though this “demand” “request” language necessarily appears at Verizon, too).

Don’t get me wrong: if AT&T wants to just give out customer information in response to data requests without asking for a demand, I’ll just assume it’s being polite to those in authority. But if it is, those requests should be in its transparency report too.

5 replies
  1. Cujo359 says:

    But if it is, those requests should be in its transparency report too.

    Yes, although I’d feel more comfortable with formal requests, backed by at least minimal justification, being required.

  2. thatvisionthing says:

    “Remarkably, AT&T has just 22 International Demands, counting both law enforcement and URL blocking.”

    I have AT&T internet and your URL is apparently being blocked in several ways I access you — when I click a link to get to you, as opposed to starting with a freshly typed address in a newly opened window, which is how I’m able to type this now. URL history but not address bar shows “wyciwyg://” followed by a changing number, followed by /your URL, whether I’m jumping from another site or whether I’m clicking a link within your site. All I see then is a blank screen and the word “Stopped.”

    In terms of canary in the coalmine, I figure I am easily your least tech savvy, most clueless reader with the whiffiest computer/connection. This has been going on for a couple of days. And you are special, you’re the only one I’ve found this happens for. Even as I’m typing this, my computer is doing something, so I wonder if this comment will post. Best wishes. (Loving my Fourth Amendment rights to be secure, DiFi…)

  3. thatvisionthing says:

    Also my Firefox Preferences, which I had open, is now frozen, so I can’t access cookies etc, or reopen it from scratch.

  4. thatvisionthing says:

    Does this have anything to do with Omar Khadr? I have the recent Corrente post on OK open as well as windows with Canadian and British websites. In the Corrente page, the wikipedia photo of Omar Khadr with bullet wounds does not show (it once did), though apparently that’s not a javascript-turned-off thing because photos in other diaries do show. Don’t exactly see how that leads to emptywheel being blocked, except there is an emptywheel link in the Corrente story, and the first time I noticed emptywheel being blocked was when I clicked that link a couple days ago. Wikipedia is not blocked when I click the photo source link.


    [Dennis Edney, Omar Khadr’s lawyer:] Omar Khadr is sitting on the ground screaming, facing a wall, because he has been burned from the bombing. And he shoots Omar Khadr twice in the back.

    [photo now blank]
    source: wikipedia

    Well, two reports by forensic pathologists determined that the two exit wounds in Omar’s back could only have been made if Omar was lying in a prone position when he was shot, considering the caliber of the gun and the nature of the ammunition. So that meant Omar Khadr was shot point blank. And that in itself is a war crime.

    wonder what it is my computer’s doing now

  5. thatvisionthing says:

    Comparing, the photos in the other diary show up as attachment links at diary bottom, and there is no attachment link at bottom in the Khadr diary now though apparently there once was because I did see that photo there before.

    Also still can’t access Firefox preferences, so I can’t turn javascript on to see if the embedded youtube in the Khadr diary still works. That’s of Khadr’s Guantanamo interrogation by the Canadians with context from the Canadian Supreme Court given in the diary:

    Supreme Court of Canada, 9-0: The deprivation of [Khadr’s] right to liberty and security of the person is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. The interrogation of a youth detained without access to counsel, to elicit statements about serious criminal charges while knowing that the youth had been subjected to sleep deprivation and while knowing that the fruits of the interrogations would be shared with the prosecutors, offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.

    Actually I’m surprised I’m still connected. That’s always whiffy, just gets cut, then comes back again, sometimes hours or day later. The thing about Khadr’s sleep deprivation, I think I read it was a documented request to Gitmo authorities before interrogation that became known because of wikileaks.

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